Transformers: Age of Extinction opens in U.S. theaters today (read our review) – and just last week at the CineEurope conference in Spain, Paramount revealed that Transformers 5 (subtitle TBD) is being planned as a 2016 release for the studio. That might not be the case after all, however, as Age of Extinction producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (who’s also been involved with every installment in the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises to date) informed us that the next Transformers movie hasn’t really even started to take shape yet – suggesting a 2016 release date might be (overly-)wishful thinking, on Paramount’s end.

Age of Extinction introduces a whole new set of human characters and Cybertronians alike, with the intention of kicking off another trilogy of movies set in the Transformers live-action universe. Michael Bay has directed all four of the installments in the franchise thus far, but in recent weeks he’s been decidedly noncommittal on the issue of whether or not he will continue on making Transformers films in the future. Rest assured, though, more adventures with the Autobots and their peers should be arriving in the years ahead – the continued box office domination of this Hasbro cinematic property guarantees that much.

During out interview with Bonaventura, we asked about what the current plan is, regarding potential directors for the next two installments in the second Transformers movie trilogy:

Screen Rant: Early on when we were reporting on the development of the film, it was reported or speculated that Michael Bay would come back, do this installment, but set up the franchise to hand off to possibly another director or creative team – to kind of take it for the next two installments. Is that still the plan or are you guys kind of rethinking that? Where are you in the stages of development for Transformers 5?

Lorenzo di Bonaventura: I think it’s one of those classic things where somebody reported that and suddenly it became our plan. We have never discussed the idea of how to hand it off, honestly. It’s not like we don’t think, well what happens if Michael doesn’t do it, of course you do. But we want to keep Michael on this, so we’re not spending any time worrying about who could come in. We’re trying to figure out how to keep him going and keep him excited.

Michael Bay filming ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

Whether you love Bay’s Transformers movies, love to hate them, or love to sit back and watch people from both sides duke it out in comments sections online, there’s no denying that his “robots in disguise” blockbusters are often impressive in terms of sheer technical craftsmanship – the result of a lot of hard work by many people – and that, at the end of the day, a Transformers movie without Bay just wouldn’t be the same (for much better or much worse, depending on how you view it).

Indeed, the time, money, and effort investment required to make just one of Bay’s Transformers films is pretty intimidating – which helps to explain Bonaventura’s response, when we asked about development on Transformers 5 and the prospective 2016 release date target:

Screen Rant: Recently we learned there’s a potential 2016 release window that you’re eyeing for the next one. Where are you guys in preparing that film?

Lorenzo di Bonaventura: No, that’s not accurate. Somehow that gets reported, it’s made up by somebody and then everybody thinks it’s true. No, I think we’ve been doing these on different cycles. I think the same thing is going to happen this time. It’s an exhausting process to make these movies. The scale of them is so enormous. It really does tax everybody and our tendency is to finish one at a time, recover, and then begin talking. And we’ll do the same thing this time.

Obviously, things could change in the future, but right now it seems as though Transformers 5 isn’t likely to arrive by 2016. The first three Transformers installment were released two years apart each, but three years passed between Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Age of Extinction – in part, because Bay took a break to go shoot Pain & Gain, in the meantime. Indeed, if Bonaventura and his fellow producers want to keep Bay around on future Transformers films, then they might need to give him a break to go off and make something else (like maybe that WWII thriller or the Ghost Recon movie he’s been developing) – then he might be more enthused about returning to the Transformers universe again… and maybe once more after that, for Transformers 6.

Paramount’s already got a couple of big franchise sequels in the pipeline for 2016, including Star Trek 3 (which may serve as the studio’s big summer release that year) – and while there’s still room for Transformers 5 to claim a good spot in, say, June or July of 2016 (May’s pretty crowded), there are far more spots in 2017 for the studio to choose from. In fact, before the Paramount announcement last week, rumor was that Transformers 5 will arrive in 2017, based on a leaked Hasbro presentation – and that was only a couple months ago, at that.

The short of it: 2016 isn’t necessarily the ideal time for Transformers 5 to arrive, no matter how you cut it – be it from a business perspective or creative perspective, as Bonaventura points out. Things can change pretty fast in Hollywood, though, so stay tuned for updates on the situation in the months ahead.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is now in theaters.